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I want to start by asking three questions I hope will alert you to problems I’m willing to bet you’ve never thought about as a Christian. Three Questions, Three Problems Here’s the first question: What is the one thing that everyone who believes in God agrees on about what God is like? The answer, by common assent, is that God is love.
Read part 1 I would like to rescue you from a mistake virtually every Christian makes now and then when they go to the Bible that prevents you from knowing what God is saying to you personally in His Word. You may not thank me, though, because some of what I have to say will probably irritate you.
Verses Commonly Misunderstood, Mischaracterized, or Maligned It doesn’t happen often, but this time I was caught completely flatfooted, struck dumb by a challenge from a young Christian woman in Cairo.
In Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, four children, poking about in the back of an old wardrobe in the attic, stumble on another world filled with peculiar delights and strange enchantments. Did you ever tumble by accident into an ancient world? Something like that happened to me recently.
Lately I’ve been enjoying my nine-year-old Annabeth’s theological common sense. “Papa, why don’t atheists believe in God?” she asked. “Well, for a number of reasons,” I said. “Partly because they can’t see Him, so they don’t believe in Him.” “Can they see atoms?” she offered. “Good point. But I think they’d say that doesn’t count since they can still detect atoms with scientific instruments, something they can’t do with God. They won’t believe in anything they can’t measure scientifically.”
The billboards read: “No God? No Problem. Be Good for Goodness’ Sake,” and “Are You Good without God? Millions Are.” The point was clear: Morality in no way depends on belief in God. And why should it? Atheists can be good, too. New atheist Christopher Hitchens regularly challenged his religious opponents to suggest a single act of goodness they could perform that he, the atheist, could not accomplish with equal success.
The images are sadly familiar. Buildings ripped from their foundations. Corpses mingled with debris. Parents and friends grieving for lost loved ones. Flowers and candles and makeshift memorials. New Orleans, Newtown, New York, Littleton. In one sense tragedies like these will never be old news. And when new disasters inevitably arrive, the question on the lips of so many is an age old query: “Where was God?” One Wrong Answer
Judith Jarvis Thompson's Violinist Argument Isn't a Good Defense of Aboriton I remember exactly where I was the first time I heard Judith Jarvis Thompson’s famous “Violinist” argument. I was driving south on the 405 freeway in Los Angeles listening to a radio talk-show. It shook me up so much I almost had to pull over.
I never like the question, “Do you take the Bible literally?” It comes up with some frequency, and it deserves a response. But I think it’s an ambiguous—and, therefore, confusing—question, making it awkward to answer. Clearly, even those of us with a high view of Scripture don’t take everything literally. Jesus is the “door,” but He’s not made of wood. We are the “branches,” but we’re not sprouting leaves.
Three years ago I sat on a short bench in a small stone church on the outskirts of Oxford. In a tiny graveyard outside was a flat tombstone with the name “Clive Staples Lewis” etched into the granite. The pew my wife and I were sitting in was the same place C.S. Lewis occupied with his brother Warnie every Sunday morning for decades as they worshipped together at Trinity Church.